A sandbox for sculpting questions

Over on PPCG.SE they have a sandbox on meta where questions can get feedback before being posted to the main site. That's vital when designing a programming challenge question that must be precisely specified, but less important on other stack exchange sites where problems with a question can just be pointed out in comments and resolved quickly.

The recent meta question on getting religion questions right is almost a mini sandbox in itself, and makes me wonder if it would be useful for us to have a sandbox too.

We could either have a meta tag and post questions on meta first before posting them to the main site once feedback has tailored them to be a good fit, or we could use the same approach as PPCG and have a single meta question to which all the answers are potential main site questions waiting for feedback in the comments.

I don't see this as something everyone would use, but it would be there for anyone who has the beginnings of a question but already knows it isn't ready to be posted.

• I agree it's a good idea to have a sandbox. Whether it should be a question or a tag I have no opinion on at this time :) – Tim B Dec 17 '14 at 9:32
• Let's have a mini vote on the two options: – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:17
• 1. One sandbox post on meta. Each work in progress is an answer, with comments to suggest improvements. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:18
• 2. One meta question per work in progress, with a tag to distinguish them from all the other meta questions, and answers to suggest improvements. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:19
• My preference is for (1), although I can't upvote it since I wrote the comment. I'm wary of cluttering meta with too many separate posts, and I think the single post sandbox on PPCG works well (sorting it by activity means you can easily see new posts and freshly edited older posts at the top). – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:22
• Another reason I favour (1) is that way anyone who wants to see the sandbox can look at that single post, and anyone who wants to look at meta but isn't interested in the sandbox only has one post to avoid, which is no trouble. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:23
• My concern with (2) is that people who want to browse meta but not sandbox posts would have to exclude the tag manually rather than just glance through meta casually. I don't want anything to put people off meta - the high activity we currently have is to be treasured and protected. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:29
• I vote (2). Overall I think it would give us a bit more flexibility, and means posts clutter less. – ArtOfCode Dec 17 '14 at 10:43
• I ended up voting for both, I picked number 2 but then changed my mind...and it was to late to un-upvote my comment. I think I would prefer we start with a single thread and if the use warrants breaking it out either by question or category we can. Start small. – James Dec 17 '14 at 14:49
• @githubphagocyte I'd be happy to start out with a meta post. Does it make sense for me to go and create it (community wiki'd)? – ArtOfCode Dec 17 '14 at 17:30
• @ArtOfCode it might be worth waiting for a few more votes first. If you take away the vote James wanted to retract for (2) and add in the vote I would make if I could for (1) then it's currently 3 to 1 in favour of (1), which doesn't seem conclusive. Maybe give it a few days? – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 17:48
• I'd rather have a conclusive consensus here first, than end up with criticisms later. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 17:50
• @githubphagocyte Seems sensible. Ok :) – ArtOfCode Dec 17 '14 at 17:50
• @ArtOfCode Once there's a clear consensus it would be great if you could set it up - especially since you're already accustomed to the PPCG sandbox. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 17:51
• @TimB As per the last comment. Here's the question: could you tag it featured? – ArtOfCode Dec 23 '14 at 10:13

Yes!

Other sites have sandboxes, though they may be used for different purposes. Mathematics has one for long posts in general. At the moment, it's pretty empty, but some of the posts have hundreds of revisions. MathOverflow has one, too, which is used semi-often. Physics has one, but a lot of the posts were defaced, and most - if not all - were never really used. I also started one on Astronomy, though I appear to be the only person who uses it. Sadly. I'm not sure about any others (besides PPCG.SE) in SE.

The ones I listed are generally used for mathematical posts (I suppose this really isn't valid because the only ones that are used a lot are pure math, so it's actually a crappy data set), if they're used. Note that only the two math sites use the sandboxes any non-negligible amount. You could say that that's because only math-heavy posts need a lot of writing (using LaTeX takes a while, and searching for one-character mistakes is a pain). PPCG.SE's sandbox is more encouraging, though, because it's all about community input. It would be really awesome to have that on Worldbuilding, because we're a tight-knit community and most of us are interested in a wide range of questions. Having one sandbox would be really handy - as opposed to experimenting on multiple meta questions.

That said, if I end up being the only user on the sandbox, I shall be mightily annoyed. And a bit sad.

• Yes I like the single sandbox post approach too - nice to be able to browse through when you feel like giving feedback. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 0:08
• Yes the community input is what I love about the PPCG sandbox. I'd like to see a supportive sandbox here where the community can advise on the best approach for each question. Everything else about this site is already upliftingly supportive... – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 0:10

Yes, definitely. I think a sandbox is a brilliant idea to make sure that questions don't have to be down voted, closed and reworked on the main site, which has the effect of lowering the apparent quality of our site by having more closed questions.

However, as a member on PPCG, I have to say the sandbox there is very cluttered. It's hard to keep track of what's done and what's not, especially since many people forget to clean up their posts after completing them. I therefore recommend a tag rather than a single question. This has the added benefit of enabling people to write more comprehensive summaries of what needs improvement in an answer rather than a comment, and enables the OP to show which points helped them the most with a checkmark. Questions that are finished with fall out of view off the front page pretty quickly; posts in a single sandbox not so much.

Perhaps we could have a meta post for a week or two to introduce people to the new tag and methods of using it effectively.

I do, however, appreciate that a single sandbox post makes it easier for a greater community input, as it can stay permanently . However, a tag wouldn't be too much more work in my opinion, as you can filter by tag or simply search for tag:sandbox.

Admittedly, sorting the sandbox post by activity (as @githubphagocyte says) does make a difference. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, but in my opinion a tag is better.

• I agree that keeping track of what has since been posted to the main site is difficult if people do not update their sandbox post. However, I don't see that this is any easier with tagged meta questions instead of a single meta post for all of them. It seems a problem either way... – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:11
• @githubphagocyte My point is that questions degrade and fall out of general view unless you look for them; posts in a featured sandbox don't really. Edited. – ArtOfCode Dec 17 '14 at 10:13
• One thing that makes a huge difference is sorting the sandbox by activity rather than votes. This brings everything recently posted or recently edited to the top, so that you don't need to look through those that people have forgotten about - they drop down the list the longer they have been untouched. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:13
• I do see your point now - tagged questions are automatically sorted by activity and fall off the front page. Answers to a single post are sorted by votes by default so you have to manually drop down the sort-by box and choose activity to get the same behaviour. Personally I would prefer to see sandbox users make an additional click rather than general meta users have to exclude a tag. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:33
• Perhaps meta users don't need to exclude it though - if everyone keeps it in, they can casually drop into a question they think they can help reasonably efficiently and answer, then carry on. Just a thought – ArtOfCode Dec 17 '14 at 10:46
• Yes if that's the case it could work. I think it depends on how many sandbox posts we end up getting. If it's more than the other meta posts then it could make it hard for general meta posts to get the visibility and attention they need. If it's only an occasional sandbox post then it might not get in the way. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:48
• I guess it's not too difficult to change from one approach to the other, so we can start with whichever gets the most upvotes here and then review how it goes to see if we need to change. – trichoplax Dec 17 '14 at 10:49
• Agreed. Seems a sensible approach, we can always delete the tag later – ArtOfCode Dec 17 '14 at 10:51